We take a look at 10 of the greatest World Cup matches ever. What do you make of our selections?
10 Greatest World Cup Matches
The World Cup has seen some of the greatest matches ever take place, so bearing that in mind we have put together ten of the best. From amazing goals, to spectacular moments, these matches have helped write World Cup history.
The format back in 1950 was slightly different with the winners of the four groups going into another group stage to decide the winner.
Going into the match, Brazil only needed to draw to win the World Cup after beating Sweden and Spain 7-1, and 6-1 respectively. They were confident of victory with many of the local newspapers (the tournament was held in Brazil), printing their victory early. But Uruguay had other ideas.
In front of a record crowd of nearly 200,000 in the Estadio do Maracana, Brazil went one-nil up after a goal from Friaca just after half-time. Uruguay responded by coming from behind with two goals in the last 25 minutes from Juan Alberto Schiaffino, and Alcides Ghiggia. Pele, the football’s first global star broke down in tears after the game. He would then win three of the next five World Cups.
The 1966 tournament had its fair share of drama even before a ball was kicked. The trophy was stolen, a replica was made, and then the original was found in a hedge by Pickles the dog.
Held in England, behind the play of stars like Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore, the hosts found themselves in the final against the mighty West Germany.
And to this day it is one of the most controversial matches in football and in the England-Germany rivalry. This is largely because of one moment in extra time.
In the 101st minute Geoff Hurst hit a shot into the crossbar and down onto the line, to which Russian linesman Tofiq Bahramov ruled it had crossed the line to give the English a 3-2 lead.
With time dwindling down, the Germans pushed every upfield. England then sealed the win with a break from Geoff Hurst who smashed the ball into the top corner to mark a 4-2 win. This of course can be remembered as Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous commentary line, “They think its all over – It is now!”
Brazil were the favourites for the tournament, largely due to the fact they had Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Carlos Alberto. Whereas England were the defending champions and were not expected to contend very well against the men in yellow.
Ultimately, this match will be remembered for two moments pulled off by English superstars Gordon Banks and Bobby Moore. The first of which was ‘The Save’. Pele was lurking at the back post and headed a cross downward towards the bottom left corner of the England goal. It appeared to be a foregone conclusion, but somehow Banks was able to dive and loop the ball around the post to deny the Brazilians.
The other moment again, involved an English star. The ball broke to Jairzinho on the right wing and the English defence was retreating. With Jairzinho dribbling towards the danger area, Moore timed his tackle perfectly to deny yet another Brazil attack.
The English heroism in defence didn’t last with Jairzinho scoring the only goal on the 59th minute. Considering in every other game during the tournament, Brazil scored three or four goals, the English effort deserves recognition.
But Brazil were the best team at the competition and would win the final 4-1 against Italy. They would also take sole possession of the Jules Rimet trophy, after winning the Cup for the third time.
1970 – Italy beat West Germany 4-3
In fact, Italy played one of the greatest World Cup matches just to get into that final against Brazil. This match is often known as ‘the game of the century’.
Against West Germany in the semi-final, Italy, who scored on the 8th minute, looked to have won the game. But a 90th minute extra time equaliser by Karl-Heinz Schnellinger pushed the game to extra-time. Chaos was about to ensue.
German legend Franz Beckenbauer had already dislocated his shoulder earlier in the game and had to stay on because they had made their two substitutions. During extra-time, in a stretch of 13 minutes, from the 98th to 111th minute, five goals were scored. Gianni Rivera’s proved to be the winner, and Italy found themselves in another World Cup Final.
1982 – Italy beat Brazil 3-2
The 1982 Brazil side are widely regarded to be the greatest team never to win a World Cup, and that is largely because of this epic game where they were sent home by Italy.
During the second round group stages, a staunch Italian defence, and the mercurial talent of Paolo Rossi, faced Zico, Socrates and the incredible Brazilians.
With the majority of the game taking place in the Italian half, chances were scarce for the Azzurri, but thanks to Rossi, when they got them, they scored. Rossi scored a sublime hat-trick to Brazil’s two goals from Socrates and Falcao.
Italy then went on to win the tournament.
This matchup was during the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup and had goals aplenty, along with one controversial moment.
Without Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, arguably their best player, for the majority of the game due to a hamstring injury, Germany came out of the blocks fast scoring in the 17th minute. Ten minutes later France equalised through a Platini penalty. At the end of the 90, nothing could separate the two sides.
The controversial moment came in the 60th minute when french forward Patrick Battiston looked to pounce onto a through ball. He would get a small touch on the ball as it went goal-ward, but he failed to see German keeper Harald Schumacher coming.
The German took him out with incredible ferocity, so much so it knocked Battiston unconscious, knocked two of his teeth out, cracked ribs, and damaged vertebrae. Despite all that, Schumacher received no card, and no foul was given. It is this moment the game is remembered for, despite the attacking and electric play of both sides.
In extra time there would be four more goals, two for each side which would go on to force penalties. Germany as you would expect, came out on top 5-4 with Horst Hrubesh scoring the decisive penalty.
If ever game split opinion on the genius of Diego Maradona, it was this one. He created two of the most memorable World Cup moments in the space of four minutes.
Just after half time, he produced the first, which has simply been remembered as ‘the Hand of God’. After a miscued clearance, Maradona somehow beat English keeper Peter Shilton to the ball. The answer was he used his hand to go over the outstretched Shilton, and the referee allowed it.
The next moment came just four minutes later in what is commonly known as ‘the goal of the century’. Maradona picked up the ball in his own half and proceeded to take it past five English defenders and the keeper before slotting it home. Maradona had taken over the game and England stood next to no chance at coming back. Gary Lineker did pull a consolation goal back in the 81st minute, but it was not enough.
This may be a stretch to call it one of the best games ever, but for sheer controversy and amazing moments, it is well up there.
2010 – Uruguay drew Ghana 1-1 (Won 4-2 on penalties)
Ghana were the feel-good story of the 2010 tournament as traditionally, African sides don’t get that far in the tournament. Their opponent in this quarter-final was Uruguay.
In a back and forth game, Sulley Muntari scored a screamer from 40 yards just before half time. Diego Forlan then equalised with a free kick on the 55th minute. The game would end 1-1 meaning extra time was played.
The drama was saved for late in extra-time. Ghana were on the offensive knocking a free kick into the box. The ball then pinged around before Luis Suarez blocked a certain goal with a handball. With the last kick of the game, Asamoah Gyan smashed his penalty into the crossbar. The Uruguayans were jubilant, but the Ghanaians were distraught, despite still having a chance in the penalty shootout.
Forlan scored the first, remarkably, so did Gyan. Victorino, Appiah and Scotti all scored. John Mensah then missed, as did Pereira and Adiyiah meaning Sebastian Abreu needed to score to know Ghana out. He did and the dream was over.
2014 – Netherlands beat Spain 5-1
Spain were the defending champions and were expected to contend for the 2014 World Cup. Their first match in the tournament was a rematch of the 2010 final, against the Netherlands.
They started well. Xabi Alonso converted an early penalty to go 1-0 up after half an hour, and then no one was expecting the onslaught that was about to befall the Spanish. Indeed, the class of the second goal should have been a premonition of what was to come.
Daley Blind floated a lovely ball over the Spanish defence and Robin Van Persie, instead of taking a touch, took the header first time and looped it over Iker Casillas. Spain came back again with chance after chance, taking advantage of the Dutch back three. David Silva should have scored but for a great save by Japser Cillessen.
Robin Van Persie then hit the crossbar with a thunderbolt, and it was becoming clear there are more goals in this tie.
Arjen Robben then started the Dutch onslaught. He scored on the 53rd minute, Stefan de Vrij 11 minutes after that, and then after a Casillas mistake, Van Persie pounced to make it 4-1. Robben then dribble his way to another on the 80th minute.
In their home World Cup, a lot was expected of Neymar and Brazil. And they were delivering somewhat, by getting to the semi-finals. Their opponent was Germany and a tight affair was expected but the result was over after 30 minutes.
For sheer destruction of an opponent, at this point in the tournament, this has to be up there with one of the greatest performances in World Cup history. It can be argued that Brazil‘s defence was suspect, but it was also due to German brilliance too.
Thomas Muller opened the scoring after 11 minutes, then Germany scored four more goals in the space of six minutes. Andre Schurrle would score a brace in the second half to take the total to seven. Brazil scored a late consolation through Oscar but the damage had been done.
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